Nawaz Sharif Pakistan
Pakistani news channels telecast live Pakistan's ailing former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif addressing an opposition parties meeting in Islamabad, Pakistan on Sunday, Sept. 21, 2020. Sharif broke a yearlong silence from exile in London to vow to oust Imran Khan from office, accusing him of only reaching power through a vote rigged by the country's powerful military. Image Credit: AP

Islamabad: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supreme leader and former three-time premier Nawaz Sharif has stated that the opposition’s struggle was not against Prime Minister Imran Khan but those who brought him into power.

In his first speech since he was jailed on corruption charges, the deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif criticized the “state above a state” which he alleged had brought Imran Khan to power in 2018.

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“Our struggle is not against Imran Khan…Today, our struggle is against those who installed Imran Khan and who manipulated elections to bring an incapable man like him into power and thus, destroyed the country,” he said accusing the parallel military government of interfering in politics. However, the army denies meddling in politics.

Nawaz addressed the PPP-hosted multi-party opposition conference from London where he has been since late last year for medical treatment. The opposition in its much-hyped conference announced an alliance, Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), to oust the PTI-led government through a multilateral approach starting with protests and rallies and has demanded the resignation of PM Imran Khan.

Parallel government

“Either we have martial laws in the country or a strong parallel government is created whenever we have a civilian government. Our foremost priority is to get rid of this selected government. And more important for us is to get rid of this system which is targeting the people, the opposition and even the judges of good repute,” he said. Nawaz said every democratically elected government was removed through conspiracies and by “establishing a much stronger parallel government”. He also accused the judiciary for endorsing military takeovers. “Pakistan has been constantly deprived of a democratic system,” Nawaz said, adding that former military dictators had escaped punishment for violating the constitution, while former civilian leaders were being hunted through the courts.

Disqualification and lost elections

Sharif was ousted from office over corruption allegations in 2017 after which his party lost elections as Imran Khan-led Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) emerged victorious in 2018. Following the conviction in the cases against the Sharif family regarding their properties and businesses, the family members were imprisoned. However, all were released from jail in September 2018 after the court suspended their sentences in the one of the graft cases. Nawaz was later allowed to fly to London for medical treatment. A Pakistani court on Tuesday asked the three-time former premier Nawaz Sharif to “surrender” and “appear before the court” at the next hearing on September 10. Last week, Islamabad High Court issues non-bailable arrest warrants for Nawaz Sharif for September 22 after he failed to surrender before the court.

PML-N promoting enemy’s agenda: PM Imran

Reacting to Nawaz’s allegation that there was a “parallel state” in Pakistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan remarked on Monday that “a fugitive sitting in London is maligning the state institutions”, adding that the government “will not allow anyone to malign our institutions.” Nawaz Sharif’s speech reflects the enemy’s agenda, the premier said. “Sharif’s PML-N has once again promoted the Indian agenda. New Delhi wanted to vilify Pakistan’s state institution ahead of the UN General Assembly session which opened on Sept 15 and will continue until Sept 3,” he said.

Information Minister Shibli Faraz called the gathering a “flimsy attempt” by the opposition to try to exert pressure so the government would back off on corruption investigations. “PM Imran Khan will never compromise his commitment on corruption”, he said.